Community Learning Center and Library Renovation
When you get the right partners together, you can achieve a result far beyond what any one of the partners could accomplish alone. That’s when a community leaps forward.
It started with the St. Joseph County Public Library’s vision to think far beyond its traditional role and to imagine the downtown South Bend Main branch as a true community center.
“Why can’t we be both?,” asks Deb Futa, executive director of the St. Joseph County Public Library. “Why can’t we be a library AND a community center AND a civic commons AND a place for learning, classes, meetings, and programs AND a gathering place for all ages? And isn’t a community center also part of the heart of any community?”
This vision sparked a conversation between Futa and Community Foundation president Rose Meissner about what the physical library building and grounds would need to include to allow the library to fully realize not only its current vision, but to adapt to new needs as they change over time. The library and Community Foundation co-funded a community input process and then asked the world-class firm of Robert A. M. Stern Architects to express the vision and feedback in a new building design.
The result—which included a thorough renovation of the existing library building and the addition of a brand-new Community Learning Center—was stunning.
And, as expected, the $36 million cost to achieve this beautiful new library campus exceeded what the library could handle alone. That’s when the partners came together to make it happen. The City of South Bend committed $4 million. And the Community Foundation, with the encouragement of the Judd Leighton Foundation, committed to raise $10 million on behalf of the project.
This additional investment in the downtown library, over and above what the library could commit alone, will result in a downtown library that will serve and delight thousands of people for generations to come.
“Everywhere I turn, I hear or read about the critical role libraries are playing in developing smart, connected communities,” says Meissner. “The St. Joseph County Public Library has always been on the leading edge of that movement. It is exciting to participate in what happens when you put that vision in a building designed to grow with and adapt to these changing roles.”
Now, the Community Learning Center is the Community Foundation’s new home. We’ve relocated our offices to the third floor of the center so that we, too, can dream bigger about our initiatives, connect with friends and partners, and build a stronger, more interwoven community.